Charis welcomes Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz in conversation with Dina Gilio-Whitaker for a discussion of the 10th Anniversary Edition of An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States, the first history of the United States told from the perspective of indigenous peoples.
Today in the United States, there are more than five hundred federally recognized Indigenous nations comprising nearly three million people, descendants of the fifteen million Native people who once inhabited this land. The centuries-long genocidal program of the US settler-colonial regimen has largely been omitted from history. Now, for the first time, acclaimed historian and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz offers a history of the United States told from the perspective of Indigenous peoples and reveals how Native Americans, for centuries, actively resisted expansion of the US empire.
With growing support for movements such as the campaign to abolish Columbus Day and replace it with Indigenous Peoples’ Day and the Dakota Access Pipeline protest led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States is an essential resource providing historical threads that are crucial for understanding the present. In An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, Dunbar-Ortiz adroitly challenges the founding myth of the United States and shows how policy against the Indigenous peoples was colonialist and designed to seize the territories of the original inhabitants, displacing or eliminating them. And as Dunbar-Ortiz reveals, this policy was praised in popular culture, through writers like James Fenimore Cooper and Walt Whitman, and in the highest offices of government and the military. Shockingly, as the genocidal policy reached its zenith under President Andrew Jackson, its ruthlessness was best articulated by US Army general Thomas S. Jesup, who, in 1836, wrote of the Seminoles: “The country can be rid of them only by exterminating them.”
Spanning more than four hundred years, this classic bottom-up peoples’ history radically reframes US history and explodes the silences that have haunted our national narrative.
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, a New York Times best-selling author, grew up in rural Oklahoma in a tenant farming family. She has been active in the international Indigenous movement for more than 4 decades and is known for her lifelong commitment to national and international social justice issues. Dunbar-Ortiz is the winner of the 2017 Lannan Cultural Freedom Prize, and is the author or editor of many books, including An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, a recipient of the 2015 American Book Award. She lives in San Francisco. Connect with her at reddirtsite.com or on Twitter @rdunbaro.
Dina Gilio-Whitaker (Colville Confederated Tribes descendant) is a lecturer of American Indian Studies at California State University San Marcos, and an independent educator and advisor in American Indian environmental policy and community engagement. Her scholarship and community engaged work focuses on environmental justice and traditional knowledge in the context of tribal sovereignty and nationalism, as well as critical sports studies in the realm of surf culture and professional surfing. She also brings these ideas into her work as an award-winning journalist, having written for many high profile publications including the Los Angeles Times, Sierra Magazine, Indian Country Today Media Network, Time.com, High Country News, and many others. Dina’s most recent book is Beacon Press’s As Long As Grass Grows: Indigenous Environmental Justice from Colonization to Standing Rock, and she is currently under contract with Beacon Press for two new works. She is also a co-editor of a new collection from Cambridge University Press’s Elements Series on Indigenous Environmental Research.
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